After Trying Week, Miami Hurricanes Open Spring Football

Hurricanes spring practice started Saturday.

Saturday, Mar 1, 2014  |  Updated 3:58 PM EDT
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The Miami Hurricanes line up against the Virginia Cavaliers during a game at Sun Life Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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After a difficult week for Miami's football program, the Hurricanes began looking forward with the start of spring practice on Saturday.

Former Miami defensive back JoJo Nicolas died earlier in the week after being involved in a car crash, and Hurricanes offensive lineman Hunter Knighton needed hospitalization after falling ill during a workout.

Miami coach Al Golden said he saw Knighton on Saturday and that he was "doing really well." Citing privacy concerns and the family's wishes, the school has not released any details about the circumstances surrounding Knighton's situation.

"We're really excited about how he's doing," Golden said.

Knighton's health was one of two major causes of angst around the Hurricanes this week. Nicolas' crash and death was the other, and Golden mourned with the family of one of his former Miami captains. He said Nicolas was one of the players who helped smooth the program's transition after Golden was hired at Miami.

"For me it was tough because I was the guy that came in from out of town and JoJo was one of those guys that embraced me, embraced us, and was one of my first captains here at Miami," Golden said. "I just had a great relationship with him so that's been difficult. As difficult as it's been for us, it's been much tougher on the family. That's really where our focus has been, on the family and all of his friends."

With that, Saturday was back to football.

Miami went 9-4 last season and will be without several players for the spring because of injuries, including running back Duke Johnson. Ryan Williams enters spring as the presumed starter at quarterback, set to take over for now-graduated Stephen Morris.

"To go out as a senior starting quarterback at the 'U', it's what everyone looks forward to, I guess," Williams said. "I've been waiting for the last three years so I'm ready to go."

Williams was the starter at Memphis in 2010, then transferred to Miami and has seen spot duty since.

Another change for Miami is that Dallas Crawford, who led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns last season, has switched to safety and will be competing for a starting job in a crowded secondary.

"I'm looking to play," Crawford said. "I'm not looking to fill a role."

Miami's spring game is April 12.

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